The spotted lanternfly, an Asian insect that can devastate trees, shrubs and crops such as peaches, has spread across New Castle County with huge amounts found in Odessa.
As of Wednesday, Delaware’s most populous county is under quarantine for that, meaning companies moving items that could harbor the bug, such as furniture, landscaping materials and wood must have a permit in order to do that.
In addition, the state wants people above and below the C&D Canal to be looking for the nymphs, with are easier to kill than the adult bug, and to alert the state if any are found below the canal.
Adult lanternflies can fly, hop or drop onto a vehicle creating another infestation, the state said. The permit requires the mover to inspect the objects being moved and take precautions to prevent the spread by killing anything found.
While the permit process focuses on commercial work, individuals also should inspect things they are moving for any evidence of lanternflies, from eggs to larvae to full-size winged insects.
Suspect items include landscaping, remodeling or construction materials; firewood of any species; packing materials such as wood crates and boxes; plants and plant parts including all live and dead trees, perennial and annual plants, and mulch; and outdoor equipment such as RVs, lawnmowers, chairs, grills, tarps, tile, stone, deck boards, and other vehicles not stored indoors.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has treated 4,088 acres to prevent the spread of lanternflies in Delaware, including 20,135 trees on 185 properties above the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
One thing to look for: The tree of heaven. It’s necessary for the spotted lanternfly to reproduce, and the state says that eliminating this invasive species helps to decrease the population of spotted lanternfly.
This tree is often seen in industrial parks, along highways and railways, and in unmanaged areas or vacant lots.
Technically called Ailanthus altissima, tree of heaven is known by a number of names, according to the Nature Conservancy, including stinking sumac, Chinese sumac, varnish tree and stink tree.
“No matter what you call it, it’s an invasive species,” the conservancy’s website says.
Delaware’s mild winter was a boon to the pests.
“We have experienced a high hatch rate of spotted lanternfly nymph,” said Jessica Inhof of the state Department of Agriculture. “The treatment program is focused on properties that have tree of heaven present, but we know from surveying that many homeowners are finding the nymphs on other plants in their landscapes as well. “
Home and property owners should use insecticides labeled for planthoppers or leafhoppers to kill nymphs and adult spotted lanternfly, she said. If homeowners don’t feel comfortable doing it themselves, they can hire a commercially licensed turf and ornamental pesticide applicator.
The spotted lanternfly is an invasive planthopper that attacks many hosts including trees, shrubs, orchards, grapes, and hops. The insect will hurt Delaware’s agricultural industry, forest, and residential areas, the state release said.
Due to quarantines in other states, including Pennsylvania and Maryland, interstate commerce will be impacted if the pest is transported out of the Delaware quarantine area.
“We are encouraging everyone to help us battle the spotted lanternfly and slow its spread. We have really shifted gears in New Castle County to a capture or destroy mentality,” said Katie Bielicki, Delaware Spotted Lanternfly Program Coordinator. “All spotted lanternfly should be destroyed, but if you are below the C&D Canal and find spotted lanternfly we want to know and need a specimen to confirm.”
Nymphs now are changing in colors to black with red splotches and white dots.
“Once this happens, the metamorphosis to the adult form is not far off and typically begins by mid-July,” Bielicki said. “It’s a lot easier to treat with insecticide to kill the nymphs now than it is to kill adults who often will climb into the upper canopies of trees to lay their egg masses.”
To obtain a lanternfly permit, someone from an organization must receive training and pass an online test to demonstrate a working knowledge and understanding of the pest and quarantine requirements. Training of other employees, inspections of vehicles and products, and removal of living stages of spotted lanternfly must be completed.
The permit is designed to show a person understands how to identify the pest and can ensure the items transported are not carrying the insect, the state said.
The general public is encouraged to download and print the Delaware Resident Spotted Lanternfly Compliance Checklist before moving regulated items. It is available here.
For more detailed information about the quarantine or to report a sighting of spotted lanternfly, go to the state’s spotted lanternfly webpage or call the spotted lanternfly hotline at (302) 698-4632.